The Foundation provides support for specialty crop research with direct funding and contract management of Specialty Crop Block Grants. Research emphasis areas include:
Marketing Florida Peaches to Retailers and Consumers
Through cooperation with Fresh From Florida, both educational and promotional materials were developed to encourage retail promotion of Florida peaches during peak season. The program includes bonus incentives for retailers to feature Florida peaches in their circulation, as well as in-store promotions and samplings. Advertising to retailers appears in trade publications such as The Packer and Produce News.
Additionally, a statewide marketing campaign including digital and social advertising was incorporated to increase consumer awareness and likelihood to purchase.
Providing Wholesome but Unmarketable Produce to the Hungry
In collaboration with Feeding Florida and their Farmers Feeding Florida program, this grant focuses on increasing donations of wholesome (but unmarketable) fresh produce to people in need. The goal is to match produce pounds with serving level data to fully address food insecurity in the state. Two key areas of focus are Supply Chain management (e.g. logistics, packaging, processing and routing) and Produce Donation Development (e.g. sourcing donations, increasing participating by growers and suppliers).
Food Safety Recall Workshop
FFVA will be partnering with Dr. Martha Roberts; FDA recall coordinators; a food safety liability attorney;
and a grower who has been through a recall to better prepare growers to deal with a food safety recall incident. The workshop will cover key components of the process, including a crisis communications plan. Sessions will be offered at both the Gulf Coast Research Center and the Everglades Research Center.
Breeding Lettuce for High Resistance to Bacterial Leaf Spot
Dr. German Sandoya will continue research into bacterial leaf spot resistant lettuce varieties. Using results from a 2014-2015 research project, resistant breeding lines will be developed for lettuce growers who produce over 11,000 acres of lettuce.
Alternative weed management options for leafy greens to mitigate loss of hand labor
Intensive hand labor has been a major component of weed management in leafy green crops. Dr. Calvin Odero will study options for efficacious weed management programs for sustainable leafy green production, including rotational crop choices.
Addressing Critical Needs for the Hydroponic and Protected Ag Industries
The team of Drs. Hugh Smith and Shinsuke Agehara and Bob Hochmuth will study the Protected Ag industry, including hydroponic greenhouses, soilless culture, and high tunnels. The value and importance of this sector is rapidly expanding in Florida. Information on varieties, production practices, pest control, and economic decision-making tools will be developed.
Moving Towards Implementation of the Decision Support System for Late Blight
This grant focuses on precision timing of fungicides to manage late blight on tomato and potato crops using the USAblight Decision Support System. The system uses site-specific weather and weather forecasts to recommend fungicide applications. Lead researchers are Drs. Pam Roberts and Nick Dufault, in collaboration with Glades Crop Care.
Driving Demand: Increasing Awareness and Marketability of Florida Peaches
UF’s Center for Public Issues and Education (PIE Center) will seek to increase the marketability of Florida peaches through a marketing plan based on research to identify barriers among growers, shippers and consumers. Researchers include Drs. Joy Rumble, Mercy Olmstead, Kathryn Stofer, and Lisa House.
Management of Emerging Tospoviruses in South Florida
To address increasing issues with tospoviruses in tomatoes, Drs. Scott Adkins, Bill Turechek, Joe Funderburk and Sam Hutton will evaluate tomato cultivars and breeding lines with tospovirus resistant genes, as well as determine the thrips vectors, and field-based diagnostic tests will be developed to distinguish TCSV from GRSV.
Disease Management Strategies for Florida’s Emerging Pomegranate Industry
Drs. Gary Vallad and Zhanao Deng will lead the team in the continuation of research in the pomegranate industry to establish an integrated disease management program, as well as further evaluation of pomegranate germplasm and breeding lines for resistance to pathogens. In order to support commercialization of production, integrated approaches to the diseases are critical.
Advancing Integrated Practices and Host Resistance for Managing Target Spot
Target spot is a common disease of tomato that affects all portions of the plant, leading to dramatic yield reduction. There is growing evidence that fungicide resistance is jeopardizing the effectiveness of several classes of fungicides. The goal of the research is to develop integrated approaches to manage target spot, to screen tomato germplasm for sources of resistance, and to begin the process of introducing such resistance into commercial backgrounds. The team, led by Dr. Gary Vallad, includes Drs. Sam Hutton, Mathews Paret, and Pam Roberts.
Integrated Weed Management Plans for Florida Cabbage Production
Drs. Nathan Boyd and Pete Dittmar will conduct research trials to develop economically viable herbicide programs for broadleaf weed control in cabbage; identify the herbicide/tillage combination that maximizes weed control, crop yield, and profitability; develop integrated nutsedge manage programs; and evaluate the potential benefits and economic impact of plasticulture production systems for cabbage.
Establishing a Hop Production System for Florida Growers
Increased interest and demand for locally produced craft beer utilizing local hops has stimulated strong interest in hop production in Florida. Drs. Zhanao Deng, Brian Pearson, and Shinsuke Agehara will test up to 30 hop varieties in high trellis hop yards, while evaluating the effects of horticultural practies on hop cone yield and quality.
Control of Guignardia Citricarpa (Kiely) to Slow the Spread of Citrus Black Spot
Control and management of citrus black spot is a major concern for citrus growers. The purpose of this research, led by Dr. Pam Roberts, is to improve disease management, reduce yield losses and slow the spread of Citrus Black Spot.
Advancing Integrated Practices for Managing Bacterial Spot in Tomato Transplants
Dr. Gary Vallad leads the team including Drs. Jeffrey Jones and Erica Goss to develop integrated management strategies to limit transplant losses and subsequent spread of bacterial pathogens in commercial transplant facilities; and also demonstrate the benefit of those approaches to reduce bacterial spot in subsequent field production.
Screening Germplasm for Bean Red Node Resistance in Snap Beans
Management of Bean Red Node requires managing the thrips vector of the virus. The purpose of this research, led by Dr. Gregg Nuessly and Dr. Nick Larsen, focuses on investigating host plant resistance. Germplasm from USDA/ARS and commercial seed supplies will be planted over two years, and monitored for thrips infestation and symptoms of virus infection.
Reducing the Threat Posed by Africanized Honey Bees to Specialty Crop Product
Africanized honey bees may pose a serious threat to both humans and wildlife species in Florida. They can colonize in building partitions, wildlife nesting boxes, tractor toolbars or drainage culverts. This project, led by Dr. Richard Raid, proposes a “Push-Pull” IPM method to relocate the bait boxes with an attempt to remediate hives with European honey bee queens.
Decision Support System for Managing Foliar Disease on Cucurbits in Florida
This research will develop and implement a decision support system (DSS) for timing fungicide applications to manage gummy stem blight, downy mildew and powdery mildew on cucurbit crops. Use of the DSS will result in fewer sprays with increased disease control and significant cost savings. Researchers include Drs. Pam Roberts and Bill Turechek.
Thrips-transmitted Ilavirus in Tomatoes and Green Beans
Development of diagnostic tests, determining insect vectors and modes of transmission, spatial/temporal dynamics of viruses and vectors and control measures for virus management will be studied in this grant. The project is led by Dr. Scott Adkins, along with Drs. Joe Funderburk, Carlye Baker, Bill Turechek, Glades Crop Care, Christian Miller and Gene McAvoy.
Increasing marketing effectiveness and awareness of Florida specialty crops
Dr. Joy Rumble with UF’s Center for Public Issues and Education is the leader for this grant to increase the marketability of Florida-grown blueberries. Research will evaluate barriers to marketing among producers, barriers to consumption among consumers, and the development of a marketing plan for the industry. Other researchers include Drs. Al Wysocki and Alexa Lamm.
Weed Management Plans for Strawberry Plasticulture Production
This research will emphasize the identification of new weed management tools, the impact of double cropping or multiple us of plastic on weed populations over time, and the impact of weed management plans on grower income. Drs. Nathan Boyd and Zhengfei Guan collaborate on the study.
Temperature Management for Quality and Safe Florida Blueberries and Peaches
Dr. Steve Sargent will focus on extending postharvest quality and safety of fresh market blueberries and peaches by determining best temperature management practices, including the feasibility of novel, rapid cooling methods. Collaborators include Drs. Jeffrey Brecht, Keith Schneider and Zhengfei Guan.
Finding Viable Labor Solutions for Florida Specialty Crop Growers
Labor shortages are posing a direct threat to the industry. The objective of this project is to evaluate the extent of labor shortages and the costs and benefits of using the H2A program, focusing on the strawberry, citrus and tomato industries. Drs. Zhengfei Guan and Fritz Roka manage the project.